Thinking of opening a commercial space - thoughts/ideas?

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Music Afficionado
Member Since: Aug 12, 2008

Ever since recording my first band, I have been dreaming about opening up a commerical space. I normally record vocalists only.

The studio in my house is great - but is limited mainly due to size. Not only that, my time is limited and I dont want strangers in my house so I only record a select few. However, the demand far exceeds the supply at this time. That, along with some other things, has me seriously thinking....

I have 3 friends all that dabble on the side in music, photo and video production. When pulled together all of us have enough equipment and knowledge in these areas, as well as have the networks to be succesful in opening a commercial space - connects in construction, electrical, plumbing, IT, websites, graphic design , musical engineering, photo/video editing, etc.). Plus we all now plenty of artists in need of these services.

We have been kicking around the idea of starting a commericial studio that would offer photo, video and music services but also would provide for band/dance/vocal rehersal space as well. Theres about 20 other things we could use the space for, but I wont get into that now.

We would all offer up our own equipment, furniture, and sweat equity to get it going and then constantly take back our lended items as we replace them with purchased equipment with initial revenues.

We looked at a few warehouses (most of which were unfinished) but came across an old photo and art studio today that is already very nicely built out and has a reception area , bathroom & kitchen, and 5 seperate rooms:
- 1 with a garage entrance roughly 12x28
- 1 which is 12x13 and has an open pass through doorway to the 3rd which is
- roughly 12/13
- Then there is a wide open room 25x28 and a
- small lounge area roughly 10x10.
Ceilings throughout are 24 feet but the two 12x13 rooms have ceilings at 8 feet.

All the build out is completely done - electricity, HVAC, plumbing, lighting, security, etc. - which would save a HUGE amount of start up costs.

My questions to you (in hoping we can utilize a lot of the current build out the way it is, at least to start) are:
- What is the minimum size control room you would guess would be needed?
- What is the minimum size mic room you would want to see for vocalists only?
- What is the minimum size mic room you would need for an average sized band?
- What is the minimin rehersal space you would need for an average sized band?

In case you are willing to aswer even more....

Assuming accoustics were right in each rehearsal room,
- What would you pay to rehearse per hour?
- Would you pay more to rehearse and have it "roughly" recorded (nothing that you would use, but listenable)? Basically somethng where you would press record at the beginning of your session and stop at the end.
- Would you pay more to have your sessions videotaped so you could walk out with a video and audio recording on DVD?
- Would you pay more to have your session streamed so you could host it on your website, ustream, etc,?

Sorry for the 20 questions. While, I dont see this allowing me to quit my normal day job, I do think it could be profitable and after seeing that space today, think it is very possible since some things (photo, video and rehersal space) would pretty much be turn key our would only take a weekend to initially set up. However, properly buidling out the studio and then going back to properly buld out individual rehersal spaces would take about a month and a pretty good investment.

Once fully finished the idea would be that you could be recording 1 project while 2 - 3 projects are either rehersing or taking photos/making a video at the same time. Thats really the only way to make a lot of money the way I see it.

There are others doing this so its not a particularily new idea (although we do have some twists). I could go on for days with details and ideas but really was mostly curious about the space quesitons.

If you have any questions you need answered from me before giving your opinion, feel free to ask.

Thanks for your time.

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Since: Apr 03, 2002

Apr 28, 2011 11:06 am

I have a couple simple questions that you should ask yourself before going on this adventure...

How many hours a week would you need to have booked, billable time to JUST make the rent and other bills for this space? Adding to that, do you see yourself being able to book that much time every week, AND have the time to do it outside of your own work...I get myself stuck in spots with side work where I book more time than I want to work and burn out at time, or, can't book enough time when I want to...when it comes to renting a space, you really need to look at that seriously. Working a day job all day and then working a night job all evening, every day, can do two things:

1- Wear you out/burn you out real fast.
2- Take a great hobby and wreck it for you.

MASSIVE Mastering, LLC
Since: Aug 05, 2008

Apr 28, 2011 11:56 am

I've helped out with a place or two like this ("existing space" studios). Figure $10-15k *minimum* in isolation and treatment alone to make it even reasonable viable. That's if you do all the work yourself.

The 25x28x24 room is going to be the "money room" as far as "nice live room, buddy..." is concerned -- But even that is going to require some serious ceiling work to get the ratios usable.

is there a way to move a wall somewhere on one of the smaller (12x13) rooms to make a larger control room?

After all that - Keep in mind that the average studio with a solid business plan operates in the red for at least several years. It takes time - A lot of time - to build up a client base broad enough to support the space.

Control room -- As large as possible.
Vocal room -- The big live room if possible.
If you really need an isolation booth, one of the 12x13's, if properly treated (and I mean PROPERLY treated), should do fine.

I'd look over the floorplan and start read applicable F. Alton Everest books (the titles will be obvious to what you're looking to accomplish).

Rates are decided by the market -- Not by folks on the forum. Sure people "would pay more" for this and that, but how much is another story. You have to find out what that sort of stuff is worth in your area and adjust accordingly to experience/credits (or lack thereof).

I'm not trying to discourage -- But it's not a part-time hobby thing... It's going to turn into a terrible, terrible nightmare if it's successful -- and much worse until that point.

Rockstar Vatican Assassin
Since: Mar 20, 2009

Apr 28, 2011 04:38 pm

Gotta side with DB_Masters on this one. Unless you know you can book week-in, week-out work, you may be paying for rent on an unused building. Thankfully, I only have a 20'x20' room in my basement to serve as my small studio (rent is incuded sort of speak with my mortgage). Despite advertising and rediculously low rates... num. of bands to signup (other than my own) = 1. LOL!!! Seriously.

From my own experience too... going into a business with friends is usually a great way to lose friends. One pulls more weight than the other and money distribution break that relationship up real fast.

If none of this scares you .... then my only advice would be to start small and work your way to bigger/better as business takes off. Good Luck.. whatever path you go down.

Music Afficionado
Since: Aug 12, 2008

Apr 29, 2011 09:32 am

Appreciate all the feedback and completely agree with all. I actualy own a side business now with a friend - its a power washing business. This idea started b/c we wanted a commercial space to keep the vans and equipment safe at night and in the off-season and store supplies in bulk. He happends to be an old studio head turned live sound guy so he has a lot of equipment and knowlege. So, we started thinking, if we are going to pay rent for a large space, why not have a commercial music studio too. Well over the years that plan has morphed into a one stop shop for artists (music studio, rehearsal space, photo studio, video studio, websites, CD duplication etc.). The power washing part is something that will be brinigng in revenue 6 - 8 months a year but I didnt bring that up in my orginal post to complicate matters. I digress. Since people actually took the time to read what I wrote, here are another few important points to bring up:
Location - great spot, safe and literally 1 mile from my house and only 500 yards off the path from my normal commute to and from work every day. Also, its dead smack in the middle of 2 future metro stops in the DC metropolitain area - scheduled to be completed in 2012.

Space - yes MM, all walls have the ability to be moved and its funny b/c I am currently desgining the proposed new space as we speak. But again, the fact that HVAC*, electrical and plumbing are already piped throughout is huge. Not too mention a lot of actual structure that can undoudtedly be used in some capacity. * HVAC questions are going to need a whole new post!

Work - although I realize from starting and running businesses in the past that a lot of my time will undoubtedly be spent there - which is tuff with a full-time job, wife and kid - the bulk of it would be temporary as it is getting off the ground. And, since a mojority of the buildout is done, this time is minimized. Beyond that, I would not be running the businesses or the music studio (engineering, scheduling, mixing, etc.). We would hire engineers and a receptionist for that.
Money - This is obviously where it gets tricky and all your points are completely valid. Vetting out profit and more importantly expense distribution would be paramount before ever even signing a lease. Also, where as I posted questions about music, the other business lines (primarily photo & video) would be alleviating much of the expenses as well. Imagine this - if you could have your dream space and ideal location - would you do it for say $1000/mo? How about $2000/mo? Do you think you could cover that?

If I sign a lease, I will post a video up of the actual space for a better visual but go to

This is pretty close to what I want to do but on a smaller scale. The space I'm looking at is 2500 sq. ft. and theirs is 7500 and in DC no less - can only imagine what their rent is.

My mom always told me "When you grow older and look back on your life, you dont regret the things you did, you regret the things you didnt do." I live my life by this a lot and this is one of those times that if I dont give it a shot, I know I will always regret it....

Thanks for taking the time and providing feedback.

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Apr 29, 2011 09:56 am

DC huh, OK, if I get my kids out there for a visit in the next couple years (which is a plan), I am totally stoppin in!
Since: Nov 11, 2007

Apr 29, 2011 03:39 pm

I seem to have a few bad ideas about most subjects, this being one. I've considered opening a studio, but given what I think I know about the publishing climate and the value of music right now I've decided that it's tough to justify a full blown studio. Especially considering how many other people are trying to do this right now!

I currently operate a not for profit studio; but I may start charging when I suck less. Everything I have fits into 2x 4u portable rackmount units and a couple rugged duffel bags. I have a good mixing space, but I currently do not own or rent tracking spaces. Instead, I have established relationships with struggling business owners across Kansas City who have space that is inefficiently utilized. Yoga studios, martial arts centers, and community centers are prime targets for this. I have photographs of these tracking spaces ready to put on my website (currently in development). "Studio A" is actually a community center, "Studio B" is a yoga studio, etc. When a band contacts me to record, I assess their needs and arrange the session with the business whose space best accommodates. There's no way to get around having a well treated, quality mixing space, but that's just a fraction of the cost for a full blown studio. Anywho, that's the basic concept to consider.

This is a great way to avoid the inefficiencies of an underutilized studio while taking advantage of presently underutilized spaces in your area.

Since: Feb 07, 2005

Apr 29, 2011 04:07 pm

First thing that comes to mind when I read "me and 3 friends" is don't do it! I don't see how the profits can be divided equally and fairly. This will cause a lot of disagreements/ My advice is to do what you can on your own. You may even save some friendships.

... if you must do with with your friends then keep it under one roof (for cross referrals) and each has its own space within and pays a price per sq ft. Each of you should be responsible for their own business.

Music Afficionado
Since: Aug 12, 2008

Apr 29, 2011 11:00 pm

Thank you for the continued feedback. So I went to the space again today with my potential partners, below are some updates:

Partners - what started as 3 friends is now only 1 friend ( a videographer) and 1 other person I was introduced too today. He is a professional photographer and videographer and is just flat out phenomenal. Not only does he have an estalished clients base of musicians (he shot Mia's most recent video and is on tour this summer documenting a band just signed to Atlantic) but he does a lot of commerical work. Clients include the FBI, CIA, the UFC, Verizon, and as of 1:30 today, just signed a nice contract with GNC. His work is consistently in mainstream catalogs, magazines, etc. He was the missing piece and adds a huge amount of credibility by name alone. He currently rents a 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse with 8 other photographers but its a far comute and 80% of his work could be done at a smaller facility. Therefore there are just 3 of us - 1 music, 1 w/ focus on video and 1 w/ focus on photo. After looking at the space and talking through ideas for a few hours we all agreed on a few basic principles:

- we would do eveything on the up and up with proper lawyers and accountants - contracts, agreements, etc. before even signing a lease.
- each person would be contracted to pay the same amount of rent and standard expenses (utiltieis, phone/cable/internet, security, etc.) each month for the term of the lease to be agreed upon ahead of time.
- expenses related to shared employee(s) for all businessed i.e. a receptionist would be split equally each month.
- expenses related to employees of each business (i.e. a studio enginner or make-up artist) would be the responsibillity of each bsusiness
-- general construction expenses to modify existing rooms/build out new ones and other startup costs would be split equally.
- construction directly related to each bsuiness line would be the responsibility of each business. Obviosuly the music studio and rehearsal spaces would be the biggest construction expense.
- each person is entitled to any profits they make.
- non-routine shared expenses and profits would be agreed to ahead of time.

Space - yes Beerhunter everything would be done under 1 roof with each business having its own space and responsible as such.

Money - of course any new business idea has a goal of making money but as cliche as it sounds, if I could break even at the end of the day I would consider this a HUGE success and a life dream acheived. As mentioned in my first post, I do not see this idea as a means to allow me to quit my day job. Rather, the money I make in my day job affords me the opportunity to have a beautiful studio in my house and possibly a commercial space like this. This pretty much sums up my phiolosphy with all of my music (recording, mixing, production) - I do not depend one bit on making money off any of it so when money comes, its extra credit.

I'm missing a bunch, but its late and I want to get back to trying to redesign this space - I f*cking love this stuff!

Great thought provoking comments so keep them coming.
Since: Nov 11, 2007

Apr 30, 2011 11:50 am

Well if you're just tossing around spare change, go ape ****! Looking forward to pics. Have fun!

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